Size Matters

Why is Roger Federer changing his racket size after 10 years? Blind panic or have people been making fun of him in the changing room, James Cooney examines.

The question which 17 Grand Slams champion Roger Federer has been asking himself over the past few months is not, as many have suggested, “Will I retire?”, but a question that seems to banish thoughts of retirement to a very distant future: “will I or won’t I change to a bigger tennis racket?” Let’s look at the pros and cons behind Federer’s thinking.

A bigger head size will give Roger more power, allowing him to break down the incredible defensive skills of his main rivals Nadal, Murray and Djokovic. Anything that will help shorten the points is a major plus for the 32 old year old, who’s conceding over 10 years to some of the tennis’s rising stars. The added power from this racket can help Federer become even more aggressive in the rallies than normal. Mis-hits should also be reduced. For those of you who play tennis or other racket sports, you’ll know what I’m talking about. For those of you who don’t, imagine arriving home from an excellent night out, coming in the door and not quite being able to make proper contact with the light switch. In addition, it should help Federer’s own defensive skills — a larger framed racket will take the pressure off when playing a big-hitting opponent, as even off-centre contact with the strings will generate power.

However, the downside to having more power and a bigger head will mean less control. For a player known for his precision, there is a considerable risk factor involved.  Shots he used to place to the millimetre may now stray inches off target. With missing comes a drop in confidence and if that begins to happen Federer’s attacking style may suffer.  Instead of shortening the points he may find them extended as he’s unwilling to bear the risk of pulling the trigger on a big forehand. Finally, one of the most beautiful sights in sport, the Roger Federer single-handed backhand might falter, with the bigger head size proving unwieldy on such a precise and technical shot.

Many consider Federer’s possible change to be a sign that he’s clutching at straws, that his recent dip in form is down to age and that a new racket will not help. Others think that after having won more and been at the top for longer than any other man in the history of the sport, a change from his beloved 90 sq racket is unnecessary. The beloved cliché “form is temporary, class is permanent” immediately comes to mind.

After using his current racket for just over 10 years he needs time to adjust and two unimportant tournaments after Wimbledon weren’t enough. During the US Open he’ll use his venerable Wilson Pro Staff 90, but in his racket bag and during his practices we will see his mysterious blacked-out racket. “I’m going to do more racket testing when I have, again, some more time after the US Open,” he told reporters after recently defeating No. 26 Philipp Kohlschreiber, 6-3, 7-6 (7).”I was playing for a month with the black one, but it’s a prototype. At the end, I just felt like, you know what, right now I feel like I need to simplify everything and just play with what I know best,” Federer added.

Perhaps Federer’s racket size experiment suggests that he has no intentions of retiring any time soon. Regardless of what racket size Federer chooses to use, he’ll certainly be one of the biggest names in tennis for years to come.